In last month’s issue, we spoke with Strokes guitarist/vocalist and solo artist Albert Hammond Jr. about the genesis of his new signature model Strat, which is based on a 1985 reissue of a 1972 model that he purchased when he was 18. Basically stock except for a pickup-switching scheme that was rigged for him by his tech, the guitar has a five-way selector that works like this: Position 1 (all the way back) is the middle pickup, position 2 is the bridge and middle pickups, position 3 is the bridge pickup, position 4 is the bridge and neck pickups, and position 5 (all the way forward) is the neck pickup. Another of his tweaks that carries to the AHJ is a flush-mounted trem, which explains why the guitar ships without a vibrato bar.
The AHJ is a nice-playing guitar with a period-correct, gloss urethane-finished alder body and a C-shaped neck with 21 medium-high frets on a 7.25-inch radius rosewood ’board. In classic form for a ’70s Strat, the neck attaches via an “F”-stamped three-bolt plate with a Micro-Tilt feature for adjusting neck angle. At the opposite end, the large headstock is fitted with “F”-branded tuners and a bullet-style truss-rod adapter. Hammond’s signature appears on the back of the headstock and is the only indication of the guitar’s artist status. AHJ wanted to keep the price in reach of more players, so nothing extra was spent on replicating the wear and tear of his guitar. As he told GP, “The whole point is that I didn’t want a museum piece. I wanted a guitar that’s going to be used and carried around and broken. And hopefully, 20 years later, someone’s going to go, ‘I discovered myself in this.’”
Played though several different amps — including a Fender Deluxe Reverb reissue, a vintage silverface Twin Reverb with JBL D-120F speakers and a Vox Mini Superbeetle — the Albert Hammond Jr. model was cool and inspiring. Its ceramic-magnet pickups have a good blend of sweetness and punch, and the tone controls for the middle and bridge positions make it easy to dial in the range of clean and overdriven textures that Strats are so adept at. Other than getting your head around the bridge pickup being on the switch’s center position, and that one click north is the neck/bridge combination, there’s nothing to sweat. You might be wise to play it a bit before taking it on a gig, but whether you’re copping the clean to ragingly overdriven sounds Hammond gets through his Fender amps or delving into the Knopfler side via the chiming middle/bridge combination — or going for deep neck-pickup roar or buttery high-gain bridge tones — it’s all there. Perhaps because flicking to the rear-most switch position is a hard habit to break, I wound up using the twangy middle pickup way more than usual, and I also stumbled into the neck/bridge combo quite often with no real thought other than how good it sounded.
It all makes me feel that the non-standard wiring does actually makes you sound a little different when playing this guitar. In that light, the Albert Hammond Jr. model rates as one of the most adventurous in Fender’s line of signature guitars and would certainly make a fine addition to anyone’s collection of off-the-shelf models that embody the preferences of the artists who play them.
Albert Hammond Jr. Stratocaster
PRICE $875 street, gig-bag included
NUT WIDTH 1.65"
NECK Maple with three-bolt neck plate and Micro-Tilt adjuster
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.5" scale, 7.25" radius
TUNERS Fender Vintage “F” style
BRIDGE Six-saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo set flat to body
PICKUPS Custom Ceramic Single-Coil
CONTROLS Volume, tone (middle pickup), tone (bridge pickup) five-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Fender USA 250L, NPS .009–.042
WEIGHT 7.5 lbs
KUDOS Nonstandard pickup switching. Plays and sounds great. Authentic ’70s look